Cincinnati Reds – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-06-19T15:58:47Z WordPress George Miller <![CDATA[Health Notes: Zimmermann, Nimmo, Marlins, Smith, Wood, Dozier]]> 2019-06-17T01:56:37Z 2019-06-17T01:56:37Z Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, currently on the mend after suffering a UCL sprain, looks to be nearing his return, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. On Thursday, Zimmermann threw 4 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Toledo, coming away pleased with the 69 pitches he threw and declaring his readiness to rejoin the Major League rotation for his next start. Whether that will actually come to fruition is up to the Tigers’ brass, though manager Ron Gardenhire seemed hesitant to welcome back a pitcher whose limited workload could lead to more bullpen days, which the team is trying to avoid. Regardless, the 33-year-old’s return looks to be just around the corner, certainly a promising development for a team that has had to patch together a starting staff after withstanding injuries to four-fifths of its Opening Day rotation.

Here are the latest updates on other injuries from around baseball…

  • Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo is going to consult more specialists about the bulging disc in his neck, tweets Tim Healey of Newsday. Nimmo has been sidelined with that same injury since May 20, and the latest is a troubling development for an organization that has been maligned for its handling of players’ injuries. At this time, there is still no timeline for when Nimmo might be cleared to return.
  • Marlins left-hander Caleb Smith has been cleared to begin a throwing program, tweets Joe Frisaro of Smith landed on the 10-day IL on June 7 thanks to inflammation in his left hip, but it doesn’t appear that the injury will keep him out much longer, as Smith is on track to return in late June. The 27-year-old southpaw has quietly emerged as a promising starter for the Marlins, having struck out 82 batters in 62 innings of work. Over the last two seasons in Miami, Smith has posted an impressive 3.83 ERA in 143 1/3 innings.
  • Hunter Dozier will spend the next three days rehabbing with the Royals’ Double-A affiliate, according to Jeffrey Flanagan of, who adds that Dozier will later join Triple-A Omaha after the birth of his child. The next step following that is to work his way back to the MLB club, which is good news for the Royals, who originally tabbed Dozier to return in late June. It looks like that timeline is still a realistic target for the third baseman, who has emerged as one of Kansas City’s few untouchable pieces and an All-Star candidate in the American League.
  • Another promising update for the Reds, with left-hander Alex Wood nearing a rehab assignment, per C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic, who tweets that the southpaw has a live BP session on Tuesday, which could lead to a minor-league rehab stint if all goes well. Wood, 28, has been dealing with lower back soreness that has put his Reds debut on hold. However, it looks as if that time could come around the All-Star break for the former Dodger.
Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Scooter Gennett To Begin Rehab Assignment Monday]]> 2019-06-16T15:37:49Z 2019-06-16T15:35:26Z Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett will begin a rehab assignment at the High-A level Monday, Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Barring setbacks, Gennett will have as many as 20 days to rehab.

This has been a long-awaited development for Gennett, who hasn’t played this season as a result of a right groin strain he suffered March 22. The injury has deprived the Reds of one of the game’s most valuable second basemen in recent years. Across 1,135 plate appearances from 2017-18, Gennett hit .303/.351/.508 with 50 home runs. He ranked third at his position in wRC+ (124) and sixth in fWAR (6.7) during that period.

Even with Gennett on the shelf for two-plus months, the Reds have gotten impressive production at the keystone. Offseason minor league signing Derek Dietrich has given the team a .236/.339/.559 line (136 wRC+) with 17 homers and 1.7 fWAR through 183 PA. The lefty-swinging Dietrich has been mired in a slump over the past couple weeks, however, and is only an option against right-handed pitchers even when he’s producing.

Although Gennett’s a fellow lefty hitter, the Reds should be able to deploy him and Dietrich in the same lineup fairly often. After all, one of Dietrich’s selling points is his defensive versatility. Aside from manning second, Dierich has totaled nine appearances each at first base and in left field this year.

Ty Bradley <![CDATA[Dick Williams On The Reds’ Deadline Approach]]> 2019-06-15T21:04:34Z 2019-06-15T21:00:03Z The 30-37 Reds sit tied for last in the talent-rich NL Central, but the team’s white flag still hangs far from full mast, as Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer explores. President of Baseball Ops Dick Williams, who embarked on a full-scale rental shopping spree last offseason, acquiring Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, the now-departed Matt Kemp, and Tanner Roark in win-now moves intended to revitalize a listless fanbase, explained his reasoning in a series of quotes for the piece.

Our only focus right now is to get the most out of these guys, win and improve the roster where we can,” Williams said. “Right now, we’ve got Wood and Gennett as planned additions to the team. That’s two pretty good boosts. We still feel like this is very much an upwards trajectory. The potential is there for this team, this group of guys.”

Though it’s certainly conceivable that Scooter Gennett and Alex Wood, each still at least two weeks away from returning, with the latter perhaps closer to a month or more, could be the catalysts to jumpstart a sputtering Cincinnati club into gear and overcome the team’s long playoff odds (3.5%, per FanGraphs’ latest estimate), the rational outlook has the team entering preparations to sell, a fact of which Williams is surely aware. “There will be decisions to be made,” Williams noted, with the hard-to-ignore subtext hovering.

Puig, Wood, and Gennett entered the season as the team’s three most obvious trade chips, should the team’s course head south, though none of the trio now figures to net the return Cincy was surely banking on. Puig has endured easily the worst season of his career to this point, slashing just .222/.264/.393 (66 wRC+) while flashing little of his trademark ball-hawking in right field. Though Wood’s injury isn’t of the elbow, forearm, or shoulder variety, his history in that area is checkered, and contenders are unlikely to offer much for a rental mid-rotation starter just a week or so back from a three-month stint on the IL. Gennett’s value suffers from the same malaise as does Wood’s, though second-base offense around the league has slumped a bit this year, and his left-side thump may be just the plug a team with a gaping hole at the keystone needs.

Roark has thus far been excellent for the club, striking out batters at a career-best rate en route to a sterling 1.6 fWAR in 13 early-season starts. Deeper peripheral marks are unconvinced, though, as Roark’s 7.0% HR/FB is easily the lowest of his career, and his typically-high grounder rate has plummeted to far below league-average depths at 33.5%. His mid-to-back-end track record, too, likely won’t have teams champing at the bit to get a piece, especially with just two-plus months remaining on his deal at the time of a prospective deal.

The best course of action, then, may be for the Reds to consider perhaps-discounted extensions with at least a few of their free-agents-to-be. “We’re getting to that point where at least you want to put it on the table and start to see if there is mutual interest,” Williams said, while taking care to note that there’s “no urgency” on that front. Cincinnati did gift another offseason acquisition, Sonny Gray, with a longer-team deal of his own after he’d just finished the worst season of his career, so it’s possible this back-hatch pivot was a part of the Reds’ blueprint all along.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Who Will Win The NL Central?]]> 2019-06-14T01:20:34Z 2019-06-14T01:20:34Z The National League Central looked like a three-team race at the beginning of the season, and not much has changed two months into the campaign. The Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals – the most hyped clubs in the division coming into the year – are at the top. After winning the division a year ago, the Brewers are 39-29, a half-game better than the Cubs. The Cardinals are a less impressive 33-33, five games back, though they’re certainly not out of the race. Meanwhile, the Reds and Pirates are eight and nine games behind, respectively. Neither looked likely to challenge for the NL Central at the outset of the season. They haven’t done anything to change anyone’s mind yet.

Led by reigning MVP right fielder Christian Yelich, brilliant free-agent acquisition Yasmani Grandal and offseason re-signing Mike Moustakas, the Brewers boast one of the majors’ most valuable groups of position players.  Their pitching hasn’t been as useful, on the other hand, as a rotation that was devoid of an ace entering the season has dealt with ineffectiveness and injuries throughout the year. However, the team still features elite reliever Josh Hader, with Jeremy Jeffress and Adrian Houser among those supporting him.

The Cubs’ position player mix has been even better than the Brewers’ this year, largely because Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras and David Bote have each offered strong production. Chicago’s rotation is probably better equipped, too, as Kyle Hendricks, Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana and Jon Lester are all proven commodities. Although, Yu Darvish hasn’t rebounded as hoped in his second year as a Cub. Darvish & Co. have handed off to a bullpen that hasn’t been lights-out this year, but it’s about to welcome all-time great closer Craig Kimbrel, whom the Cubs signed to a three-year, $43MM contract last week. Kimbrel would have been a match for the Brewers, making it all the more beneficial for the Cubs that they landed him (on paper, at least).

As for the Cardinals, they’ve fallen short of expectations after trading for ex-Diamondback Paul Goldschmidt, one of the premier position players in recent memory, and signing reliever Andrew Miller in the offseason. Both players have logged somewhat disappointing production to date, though Goldschmidt’s still an imposing presence and Miller has improved after a rocky start. Regardless, neither the Cardinals’ cast of hitters nor their relief corps is their most pressing issue. It’s their rotation, which hasn’t gotten high-end numbers from anyone. Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas have gone backward after impressive showings in 2018, while Dakota Hudson’s peripherals portend trouble. Adam Wainwright’s much closer to average than ace-like these days (and he’s now on the injured list with a hamstring issue), and nobody has nailed down the fifth spot in the Redbirds’ starting staff.

Considering the talent peppered throughout the Cardinals’ roster, it would be foolhardy to rule them out as potential division winners this season. Furthermore, with the trade deadline still yet to occur, St. Louis or anyone else in the division could put itself over the top with a shrewd acquisition(s) leading up to July 31. For now, though, the edge clearly belongs to the Cubs and the Brewers. FanGraphs currently projects the NL Central to finish in this order: Cubs (91-71), Brewers (87-75), Cardinals (83-79), Reds (78-84), Pirates (75-87). How do you expect it to shake out?

(Poll link for app users)

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Reds Sign Second-Rounder Rece Hinds]]> 2019-06-13T21:34:55Z 2019-06-13T21:08:08Z
  • The Reds have agreed to an above-slot deal with second-round pick Rece Hinds, as per’s Jim Callis.  Hinds will receive a $1,797,500 bonus, a nice bump up from the $1,507,600 slot price attached to the 49th overall pick.  Baseball America gave Hinds the highest ranking (39th) of any of the draft pundits, noting that the 18-year-old has a very strong throwing arm and “easily has 70-grade raw power currently, and you don’t have to look far to find scouts who will put 80-grade power on Hinds’ bat.”  There isn’t yet much overall hitting polish behind this power, however, and though Hinds was drafted as a shortstop, he’ll very likely be moved to third base or potentially the corner outfield in his future.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Robert Stephenson Begins Rehab Assignment]]> 2019-06-12T04:42:35Z 2019-06-12T04:41:06Z
  • Reds righty reliever Robert Stephenson began a Triple-A rehab stint Tuesday, according to the team. Stephenson went to the IL on May 31 with a cervical strain. Once a well-regarded starting pitching prospect, Stephenson looked as if he was emerging as a credible reliever before his injury. In his first full-time look out of the bullpen, the 26-year-old has notched a 3.96 ERA/2.58 FIP with 12.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 across 25 innings.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Free Agent Stock Watch: Yasiel Puig]]> 2019-06-15T18:59:20Z 2019-06-12T02:11:10Z Looking to return to relevance and break their five-year playoff drought in 2019, the Reds operated aggressively on the trade market during the offseason. The club swung multiple noteworthy deals, including a swap with the Dodgers in which they netted outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp and left-hander Alex Wood. So far, though, that trade hasn’t delivered the on-field value the Reds wanted. They released Kemp in early May after he got off to a miserable start, while Wood hasn’t taken the field at all because of a back injury. That leaves Puig, who was perhaps the Reds’ biggest acquisition of the offseason. To this point, however, the 28-year-old has been a bust in Cincinnati.

    Having signed a seven-year, $42MM contract with the Dodgers back in 2012, when he left Cuba for the majors, Puig already cashed in once earlier in his career. Although Puig was inconsistent in LA, he lived up to his pact as a member of the Dodgers, with whom he slashed .279/.353/.478 (129 wRC+) and totaled 108 home runs, 60 steals and 16.7 fWAR over 2,765 plate appearances from 2013-18.

    The Reds were surely expecting Dodgers-esque production from Puig, but instead, he has managed a terrible .212/.256/.385 line with 11 HRs in 242 trips to the plate. His 63 wRC+ is eighth worst among 170 hitters who have amassed at least 200 PA.

    Unfortunately for Puig and the Reds, his massive downturn in offensive production isn’t simply a byproduct of bad luck. Sure, Puig’s measly .230 batting average on balls in play is likely to climb, and his weighted on-base average (.270) sits far below his expected wOBA (.312). Nevertheless, Puig ranks around the middle or lower half of the league in xwOBA, expected batting average, expected slugging percentage and hard-hit rate, according to Statcast. The right-hander’s also walking at a career-worst rate, striking out more than ever, chasing way more pitches outside the zone, not making nearly enough contact and, for the first time, getting stymied by same-handed pitchers. Relative to last season (heatmaps via FanGraphs: 2018, 2019), righties have been operating less in the middle of the plate against Puig, who hasn’t been able to come up with an answer.

    When Puig has put the bat on the ball this season, the majority of his connections have ended up in the air. However, while many players have benefited from elevating the ball more, the opposite has been true for Puig. He’s racking up far more flies and far fewer grounders than he ever has, but that isn’t a great approach if you’re not hitting the ball with authority. Puig’s exit velocity on flies and line drives has fallen from 93.7 mph to 91.7 since last year, while his mean FB distance has dropped from 328 feet to 316.

    It’s clear Puig’s offensive game is suddenly rife with red flags, though he has remained a capable defender and base runner in Cincinnati. Since his MLB career began, Puig has logged 44 Defensive Runs Saved with a 12.5 Ultimate Zone Rating, including four and 1.3 in those categories as a right fielder this season. Meanwhile, even though his sprint speed has decreased, Puig has swiped nine bases on 11 attempts.

    Although it’s nice that Puig can flash the leather and run the bases, his ability to produce at the plate has been his calling card thus far. And if Puig doesn’t rebound in that aspect soon, it’s going to further drive his trade value into the ground as the July 31 deadline approaches. Worsening matters for Puig, it could make it difficult for him to secure anything more than a one-year, prove-it deal upon reaching the open market in the winter. With Marcell Ozuna, Nicholas Castellanos, Avisail Garcia, Corey Dickerson and perhaps Kole Calhoun also among corner outfielders set to hit free agency, Puig will have serious competition off what could go down as a nightmarish platform season for him.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Reds, Nick Lodolo Agree To Terms]]> 2019-06-11T22:41:08Z 2019-06-11T22:36:21Z The Reds have agreed to terms with first-rounder Nick Lodolo, per Jim Callis of (Twitter link). He’ll receive the full $5,432,200 that accompanies his No. 7 overall slot.

    Lodolo is a 6’6″, 202-pound lefty out of Texas Christian University who was a consensus Top 10 prospect headed into the 2019 draft. He posted dominant numbers this year, logging a 2.48 ERA with 11.5 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9 in a total of 15 starts and 98 innings. Fangraphs ranked him as the draft’s No. 7 prospect, while he ranked eighth at both Baseball America and as well as 10th at

    Lodolo adds a polished, high-end pitching prospect to a Reds system at a time in which the organization has been looking to emerge from an ongoing rebuilding process. Baseball America called him a “high-probability Major Leaguer” that has above-average control and the potential for three plus pitches (fastball, slider, changeup), although each is considered to be more of an average offering at the moment. ESPN’s Keith Law gives him credit for “at least midrotation upside,” and Callis calls him the best pitching prospect in this year’s draft class.

    If he’s a familiar name to baseball fans, it’s likely because Lodolo was drafted by the Pirates with the No. 41 overall pick back in 2016. Lodolo opted not to sign and instead pursued his college career. That type of risk doesn’t always pay off from a financial standpoint but certainly did in this case; the No. 41 overall pick back in 2016 came with a $1.576MM slot value.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Reds Acquire Tyler Jay From Twins]]> 2019-06-11T04:37:57Z 2019-06-11T04:37:57Z The Reds have acquired left-hander Tyler Jay from the Twins, according to Roster Roundup. There’s no word on what the Twins received, but they presumably got a meager return for Jay.

    The Twins used the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Jay, who starred as a reliever at the University of Illinois. At the time Minnesota selected him, there was plenty of optimism Jay would continue to thrive in the majors as either a reliever or starter. But injuries – including to Jay’s shoulder and neck – have helped derail his career since he entered the professional ranks.

    The 25-year-old Jay hasn’t yet ascended past the Double-A level, where he has pitched since 2017 and owns a 4.60 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 103 2/3 innings. While assessing the Twins’ prospects this past April, Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs wrote Jay remains “a multi-pitch lefty with average stuff, and that seems rosterable.” The Twins disagreed, even after all they invested in Jay, leaving the Reds to hope he’ll one day realize some of his vast potential in their uniform.

    George Miller <![CDATA[Alex Wood Resumes Throwing]]> 2019-06-09T21:48:48Z 2019-06-09T21:45:12Z On Saturday, Reds southpaw Alex Wood threw a bullpen session for the first time since April, writes Mark Sheldon of Wood has been dealing with lower back spasms since he was acquired in the same trade that sent Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to Cincinnati, and setbacks suffered in March and April led to the lefty being shut down for about a month. While there is no timetable for his return to an MLB field and his Reds debut, it’s promising that Wood is once again throwing and feeling well enough to move forward with his recovery. As Sheldon notes, Wood will still need to build up a foundation before he can return to the field, a process that likely includes several more bullpen sessions followed by facing live hitters, and finally a minor-league rehab assignment. Barring any further setbacks, completing those steps will allow Wood to join a Reds team that has actually fielded one of the National League’s best pitching staffs. To be sure, Wood, who has some experiencing working out of a bullpen role with the Dodgers, would represent a luxury for the last-place Reds even if there is not a spot for him in the starting rotation.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Scooter Gennett Close To Rehab Assignment]]> 2019-06-08T15:13:34Z 2019-06-08T15:13:34Z
  • Scooter Gennett’s long-awaited 2019 debut may be right around the corner for the Reds, per’s Mark Sheldon. He’s been taking grounders and batting practice, but now he’s running the bases as well, meaning activation from the IL could happen sometime in the next couple of weeks. The current plan has him heading to the team’s complex in Goodyear, Arizona next Wednesday, aiming to start a rehab assignment shortly thereafter. With his first foray into free agency on the horizon, Gennett’s pocketbook may face the harshest affects of the injury, as the team itself has benefited from the surprising play of Derek Dietrich as a fill-in. Gennett, 29, owns a career .289/.331/.456 line with back-to-back 20-homer seasons coming into 2019. Jose Peraza may be facing a cut in playing time upon Gennett’s return, as their intended-starting-shortstop has hit only .211/.272/.331, marks that should land him behind Dietrich, Gennett, and Jose Iglesias on the eventual depth chart.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[The Offseason’s Best Minor League Signings (So Far)]]> 2019-06-07T19:19:45Z 2019-06-07T17:15:40Z The final two top-tier free agents are finally off the board — it only took until June! — but most clubs have long since begun to reap the benefits of their offseason additions from the open market. That includes those who partook in the annual grab bag of minor league contracts.

    Each year, there are dozens upon dozens of recognizable names who settle for non-guaranteed pacts — perhaps more in this past winter’s frigid free-agent climate — and while most fail to yield dividends, there’s always a handful of gems unearthed. The Rangers, Reds and Pirates did particularly well in terms of signing players on minor league contracts this offseason, but there have certainly been other deals of note. It’ll merit revisiting this bunch after the season is over to see who maintained their pace and who stepped up in the final two thirds of the 2019 campaign, but to this point in the year, here’s a look at the most productive minor league signees of the winter.

    Rangers: Hunter Pence, Logan Forsythe, Danny Santana

    Hunter Pence | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Much was made of Hunter Pence’s efforts to revamp his swing while playing winter ball in the offseason. Frankly, it’s not uncommon to hear of veteran players perhaps in the twilight of their career making alterations in an effort to stick around a bit longer. What is uncommon is for the results to be this eye-opening.

    Pence hasn’t simply bounced back from a pair of awful seasons to close out his Giants tenure — he’s given the Rangers one of the best offensive performances of his 13-year Major League career. The 36-year-old has posted a resplendent .288/.341/.583 batting line with a dozen home runs, 10 doubles and a triple through 179 plate appearances. His 47.6 percent hard contact rate lands in the 91st percentile of big league hitters, per Statcast, and his average exit velocity of 92.6 mph is in the 96th percentile. Defensive metrics are down on Pence, which isn’t a huge surprise for a 36-year-old corner outfielder, but he’s hitting at a star level without benefiting from a gaudy BABIP (.299). If he can maintain this pace, he’ll have no trouble landing not just a 40-man roster spot this winter — but a solid salary to go along with it.

    Pence alone would make for a terrific minor league add, but the Rangers are also getting the best form of Logan Forsythe we’ve ever seen (.299/.404/.472 through 172 PAs) and a strong showing from Danny Santana (.291/.333/.465 in 139 PAs). Those performances are a bit more dubious, as the pair improbably sports matching .388 averages on balls in play. But, Forsythe is walking at a 14 percent clip that he’s never previously approached outside of a 2017 season in Los Angeles where he logged ample time hitting eighth in front of the pitcher (with a 21 percent walk rate in such plate appearances). Santana can’t boast that same plate discipline — to the contrary, his longstanding inability to draw a walk is as pronounced as ever — but he’s making hard contact more than ever before while also stealing bases with great efficiency (7-for-8). Both Forsythe and Santana can move all over the diamond as well.

    Reds: Derek Dietrich, Jose Iglesias

    Derek Dietrich | David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

    Cincinnati has gotten even more production out of its minor league deals than Texas, although the two player the Reds landed on non-guaranteed contracts both came as a surprise. Even after Dietrich was effectively non-tendered by the Marlins, he was expected to get a big league deal. Iglesias enjoyed a solid season at the plate and has long been regarded as a stellar defender at shortstop. The Tigers jumped on a one-year deal with Jordy Mercer worth $5MM in early December, seemingly believing Iglesias would command more.

    That neither player found his asking price met by the time mid-February rolled around has been nothing short of a godsend for the Reds, who scooped up both on minor league pacts. Cincinnati couldn’t have known that a spring injury to Scooter Gennett would create even more at-bats for this pair early in the season, but Dietrich and Iglesias have each been sensational in capitalizing on the opportunity for unexpected levels of playing time.

    Dietrich has already pounded a career-high 17 home runs despite accruing only 157 plate appearances. Detractors will point to his new hitter-friendly home park, but Dietrich has a .377 on-base percentage, .541 slugging percentage and six home runs on the road this year. Besides, it’s not as if every member of the Reds has belted 17 home runs simply by virtue of playing games at Great American Ball Park. Dietrich has a career-best 9.4 percent walk rate and career-low 20.4 percent strikeout rate as well.

    Iglesias, meanwhile, has batted .294/.335/.421 with four homers and a characteristically low strikeout rate (13.5 percent) in 2019 plate appearances. He’s already tallied seven Defensive Runs Saved with a +3.3 Ultimate Zone Rating in 477 innings at shortstop, making Detroit’s decision to move on from look all the more egregious, considering they went out and signed a different veteran to man the position anyhow. He’s not running like he did in 2018, but Iglesias has been a flat-out steal.

    Pirates: Melky Cabrera, Francisco Liriano

    Cabrera has been forced into minor league deals in each of the past two offseasons and will turn 35 later this summer, but the Melk Man just keeps on hitting. Injuries to Corey Dickerson, Gregory Polanco and Lonnie Chisenhall created an opening for Cabrera, and he’s responded with a .335/.376/.467 line through 179 plate appearances. It’s true that he’s benefited from a .366 average on balls in play, but Cabrera’s 11.7 percent strikeout rate is excellent and represents a continuation of the elite bat-to-ball skills he’s demonstrated throughout his career. The defense isn’t pretty — it never really has been — but Cabrera’s bat has been a huge plus for the Bucs.

    The Astros tried Liriano in the bullpen down the stretch in 2017 and weren’t able to get the results they’d hoped. Liriano returned to a starting role with the Tigers in 2018 and found middling results, but he’s been reborn in the Pittsburgh bullpen in his second go-around at PNC Park. In 29 1/3 innings, Liriano has a 1.21 ERA with 32 punchouts, 12 walks and a 47.3 percent grounder rate. He won’t maintain a 96 percent strand rate or a .233 BABIP, but Liriano’s 14.7 percent swinging-strike rate is the best of his career. Even if he takes what seems like an inevitable step back, FIP pegs him at 3.08 while SIERA checks in at 3.82. While the game’s highest-paid free-agent relievers have largely flopped, Liriano looks every bit the part of a viable bullpen option.

    Others of Note

    There have been successful minor league signings outside of Arlington, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, of course. Eric Sogard, he of the former #FaceOfMLB and #NerdPower hashtag fame, has been a superlative pickup for the Blue Jays, hitting at a .290/.365/.481 pace with a career-high five homers in just 151 plate appearances. With several injuries and poor performances around the Toronto infield, his presence has been a boon to an otherwise disappointing lineup.

    Sogard’s former teammate and fellow Oakland cult hero, Stephen Vogt, thought his career could be over at this time a year ago. Instead, he’s back in the Majors and enjoying a solid showing at the plate with the Giants. In 66 plate appearances, Vogt has hit .250/.318/.417, and Buster Posey’s recent placement on the injured list will only create more opportunity for playing time. The Giants cycled through an all-you-can-sign buffet of veteran catchers earlier this spring, and Vogt is the last man standing.

    As far as other catchers go, Matt Wieters landed the role of baseball’s most seldom-used backup: the Cardinals’ second option to iron man Yadier Molina. Wieters has just 50 plate appearances on the year through June 6, but he’s going to see an uptick in playing time with Molina on the injured list for a bit. In his 50 trips to the dish, Wieters has connected with three long balls and slashed a very solid .277/.300/.511. His 15 strikeouts against just one walk could very well be a portent for struggles to come, but some more frequent playing time could also help the veteran find his rhythm.

    Speaking of players who’ve succeeded in minimal playing time, right-hander Mike Morin has given the Twins 10 1/3 innings of terrific relief since having his contract selected in early May. He’s punched out seven hitters, hasn’t allowed a walk, is sitting on a career-high 56.7 percent ground-ball rate and has limited opponents to just one run (a solo home run). He’ll need to miss more bats, as he’s not going to maintain a .172 BABIP and will eventually walk a batter, but Morin’s newfound knack for keeping the ball on the ground is encouraging. (For those wondering where Ryne Harper is, he was technically signed in the 2017-18 offseason and is in his second year with the organization.)

    In a similarly small sample of work — four games, 20 1/3 innings — left-hander Tommy Milone has given the Mariners some competitive starts to help out in their beleaguered rotation. Milone is sitting on a 3.10 ERA and 3.84 FIP, and while he’s never been one to miss bats in the past, he’s punched out 20 hitters against only five walks. His velocity hasn’t changed, but Milone is throwing more sliders at the expense of his four-seamer and changeup.

    Over in Atlanta, the Braves have enjoyed their own bullpen find, as Josh Tomlin has pitched a team-high 32 innings of relief. Tomlin’s 3.94 ERA doesn’t exactly stand out, and fielding-independent metrics all suggest a mid-4.00s mark is more realistic, but he’s been a relief workhorse for a team whose rotation and bullpen have struggled mightily for much of the year. The 32 innings Tomlin has already soaked up have been vital for the Braves.

    Elsewhere in the NL East, former Pirates and Blue Jays prospect Harold Ramirez is doing his best to continue earning playing time with the Marlins. He’s hit .329/.368/.427 through 87 plate appearances, and while that line has been buoyed by a .394 average on balls in play, Ramirez is making solid contact and isn’t striking out much. He batted .320/.365/.471 in 120 games with Toronto’s Double-A affiliate last season and .355/.408/.591 in 31 Triple-A games with the Marlins in 2019, so he’s earned a look at the game’s top level.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Reds Agree To Over-Slot Deal With 3rd-Rounder Tyler Callihan]]> 2019-06-07T05:30:59Z 2019-06-07T05:30:59Z The Reds have agreed to an over-slot deal with third-rounder Tyler Callihan, the 85th selection in this year’s draft, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network. The high school infielder from Jacksonville will receive $1.5MM. That’s worth more than double the recommended value of Callihan’s pick ($710,700).

    Callihan had committed to the University of South Carolina, but the soon-to-be 19-year-old’s agreement with the Reds takes him out of the Gamecocks’ plans. Meanwhile, the Reds may have gotten a steal in Callihan, whom (No. 35) and Baseball America (No. 37) regard as one of the 40 best players in this year’s draft class. Both outlets agree the lefty-swinging Callihan possesses significant offensive upside, though his future defensive home is in question. While Callihan has garnered experience at catcher, his big league position could be in the infield.

    At $9,528,600, the Reds entered the draft with the majors’ 13th-largest bonus pool. The Callihan agreement will leave them with just over $8MM to spend on their other picks – including TCU left-hander Nick Lodolo, whom they chose seventh overall.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Reds Outright Jose Lopez Off 40-Man Roster]]> 2019-06-02T22:29:18Z 2019-06-02T22:29:18Z The Reds announced that right-hander Jose Lopez has cleared waivers and been outrighted off the 40-man roster.  Lopez had already been playing at Triple-A Louisville already.  The move opens up a spot on Cincinnati’s 40-man, though no corresponding move has been announced.

    Once a promising young arm in the Reds’ farm system, Lopez’s stock diminished after a shaky 2018 season that saw him post a 4.47 ERA over 141 Triple-A innings, and those troubles have only increased this season.  Lopez had an ungainly 6.98 ERA, 7.7 K/9, and 1.62 K/BB rate over 49 frames for Louisville in 2019, experiencing both a sharp increase in his walk rate, and a whopping 13 homers allowed over those 49 innings.

    A sixth-round pick for the Reds in the 2014 draft, the 25-year-old Lopez has yet to crack the Major Leagues.  He briefly left Cincinnati’s organization this winter when the Giants claimed him off waivers in February, though the Reds re-claimed Lopez back near the end of Spring Training.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Scooter Gennett]]> 2019-06-02T04:29:19Z 2019-06-02T04:29:19Z The Reds have gone without injured second baseman Scooter Gennett all season, but his return is getting closer. Gennett could begin a rehab assignment within “two or three weeks,” manager David Bell said Saturday (via Mark Sheldon of

    Gennett suffered a right groin strain March 22, at which point he was projected to miss eight to 12 weeks. It’s now clear the 29-year-old won’t return until near the end of that timeline, if not later. Fortunately for the Reds, they’ve received excellent second base production even without Gennett. Minor league signing Derek Dietrich has been a revelation in Gennett’s place, having slashed an elite .260/.366/.707 (168 wRC+) with 17 home runs over 145 plate appearances.

    Like Dietrich, Gennett originally arrived in Cincinnati as a low-risk pickup. The Reds claimed Gennett off waivers from the NL Central rival Brewers on the brink of the 2017 campaign. Little did either team know Gennett would emerge as one of the game’s most valuable second basemen in Cincy. The 28-year-old’s coming off a two-season, 1,135-PA stretch in which he batted .303/.351/.508 with 50 home runs to place third at his position in wRC+ (124) and sixth in fWAR (6.7).

    Gennett will reclaim his spot once he returns, Bell suggested, saying, “Obviously, Scooter is going to be playing.” But Bell indicated the Reds’ lineup is big enough for Gennett and Dietrich, pointing to the latter’s ability to play multiple other infield positions – first and third base – as well as the outfield.

    First (Joey Votto) and third (Eugenio Suarez) are spoken for in Cincinnati, whereas corner outfielders Yasiel Puig and Jesse Winker haven’t established themselves as Reds cornerstones the way Votto and Suarez have. And Dietrich has handily outproduced Puig and Winker, which could open the door for him in the outfield. Platooning Dietrich – a lefty hitter who does all his damage versus righties – with Puig or Winker wouldn’t be easy, though. The righty-swinging Puig has typically caused more harm to same-handed pitchers (that hasn’t been the case this year, but he has scuffled in general), while the lefty Winker hasn’t had any success against southpaws this season. Of course, the Reds could resolve the situation to a degree if they fall out of contention in the coming weeks and trade Puig – an impending free agent.